Everyone has talked about a particular status in his or her life, be it their relationship status, their financial status, and heck, people talk about their problems on their Facebook status all the time! But one thing that’s rarely talked about is one’s HIV status. Despite its relevance today, it is still greatly stigmatized and has been thought of as taboo by many. This monthly column aims to help facilitate discussion on issues surrounding HIV testing and living with HIV.
Most people start the year by making New Year’s resolutions. With all the festivities now over and the last bottle in your display cabinet empty, are you now ready to come up with your to-do and not-to-do lists for 2017?
Perhaps taking an HIV test can be included in our New Year's resolutions. You’re probably asking, “Why should I get tested for HIV, anyway?”
There are many things to look out for. One of the essential questions is, "Am I sexually active?” If your answer is “yes,” then you should definitely get tested. The primary reason most people get tested is to know their HIV status, as described in last month's The Fifth HIV Status. Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) is the only way you can be sure if you are non-reactive or reactive, positive or negative.
Engaging in risky sexual behaviors exposes us to HIV, as pointed out by LoveYourself's TSC or Triangle of Self-Care. This paradigm highlights three critical behaviors: timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and correct and consistent use of condoms. Equipping ourselves with the know-how of safe and protected sex will lead us to a safe and satisfying sex life.
Now, what are those risky behaviors? Try answering the following questions in the naughty list with either yes or no.
- Are you sexually active, engaging in oral and/or penetrative sex?
- Have you had unprotected penetrative anal or vaginal sex without using a condom?
- Have you had multiple sex partners within the year?
- Have you had sex while you drunk or under the influence of drugs?
- Have you had sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or hepatitis B?
- Have you shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs?
- Have been accidentally pricked by a syringe needle?
- Do you have an open wound that was exposed to any body fluids (blood, vaginal and seminal fluids, and the likes)?
If you answered Yes to any of the questions above, you must consider having HIV test.
Now, here comes the nice list:
- Do you use condoms and water-based lubricant when engaging in penetrative anal or vaginal sex?
- Have you gotten yourself tested for HIV and now know your status?
- Are you in a mutually exclusive relationship?
- Do you know your sexual partner's status and are you sure of it?
- Do you only engage in protected sex without the influence of drugs or alcohol?
If you answered Yes to all questions above, continue these good sexual behaviors. Nonetheless, you're encouraged to have an HIV test as well.
When getting tested for HIV for the first time, you may feel anxious or maybe even scared. However, knowing your status will give you the upper hand to act on whatever the result. LoveYourself will help you every step of the way.
At LoveYourself clinics, you will be welcomed by smiling volunteers and be assisted by our capable counselors for your pre- and post-test counseling. Still worried? We guarantee that everything, from filling out the form to the giving of results, will be handled with strict confidentiality.
What's next after getting tested and knowing your status?
If you turned out to be non-reactive, get tested again three months from the day you engaged in unprotected sex and refrain from engaging in it again.
If negative, avoid risky sexual behaviors that may get you infected with HIV. Always practice safe and protected sex. Get tested regularly if you're sexually active.
If found reactive, your blood sample will undergo confirmatory testing at the DOH SACCL (STD and AIDS Central Cooperative Laboratory). Like those who turn out non-reactive and negative, you are encouraged to practice the Triangle of Self-Care.
If positive, you will be advised to undergo baseline blood tests, encouraged to practice a healthy lifestyle, and directed for treatment.
You can know your status at the LoveYourself clinics. We'll be more than happy to see you. LoveYourself Anglo and Uni are open Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 12 noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to to 2 p.m.